On Saturday 1 November, 50+ Friends and supporters of Ibba Girls School found their way to the Welcome Conference Centre in Coventry For the FIGS annual meet.
The supoorters all enjoyed the film and the live video link to the school, some first class presentations, lively discussions, and an opportunity to sign up to support FIGS through the Big Give fund-raising campaign in December and through monthly standing orders – and by purchasing lots of FIGS Christmas cards, Pencil Power T shirts, and much more.
The meet began with a showing of the 5-minute Ibba film made (pro bono) for us at Ibba Girls School in June this year by Jonathan Stevens and Nick Jones from Totality. You can access this here.
Followed by a live Skype call with students and staff at the Ibba Girls School, with the conversations with some of them compared by Chernise Neo. It was amazing to meet some of them, hear their voices direct, and to enjoy the song they had written for us.
The session after was designed to put the school and the students in the context of perspectives from South Sudan from members of the South Sudan diaspora, including:
Jacob Lagu (FIGS Trustee) spoke on the political economic and social context in South Sudan, in a detailed analysis which combined “pessimism of the intellect with optimism of the will"
Abaan Ajik, a young South Sudanese woman now completing her training as a lawyer in Birmingham, on her own experience and the importance of girls education and the challenge for the UK diaspora
Ajok Wek (a little later in the day) on her family’s experience and the importance of womens’ empowerment in the emancipation of South Sudan
We then had a series of brief progress reports from FIGS Trustees on the following issues (detailed slides from this session can be found here.)
Eric Shepley is retiring from his role as Trustee and Honorary Treasurer and was given warm thanks (and a book on Escapist Holidays!) for the painstaking work he has done in setting up rigorous systems for financial management for FIGS. Eric’s son Laurence is continuing to help with our book-keeping, to help Gary Bandy as he joins the Trustees and takes over as Honorary Treasurer.
The next session brought together several people who had been to Ibba as volunteers and could talk about their first hand experience of Ibba and South Sudan:
Participants then made carousel visits to learn more or sign up for the following issues:
Threads were then drawn together in a plenary session for questions, comment and discussion of the next steps.
Finally the day concluded with an epilogue on Peace, Justice and Reconciliation led by the Dean of Coventry Cathedral, Rev John Witcombe. John spoke movingly of the lessons learned in Coventry after the blitz bombing of the city in the Second World War, and the role of the Cathedral in voicing the message “Father Forgive” as the basis for Coventry’s post-conflict reconstruction. Dean John also spoke of brokenness as often the basis for new life, and quoted Leonard Cohen’s song Anthem in which he says:
“There is a crack, there is a crack in everything; That’s how the light gets in. “
The day concluded with a blessing and prayer from Dean John, for the people of conflict ridden South Sudan, for all involved in running Ibba Girls School, and for the UK Friends of Ibba Girls School.